Shoulder Season in Europe

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Cinque Terre in the spring.

Shoulder season in Europe means all the unforgettable experiences without the summer crowds and scorching heat! Beauty and charm are abundant during these quieter off peak times, allowing for the creation of more special memories.

What is Shoulder Season:

Shoulder season takes place during the spring and autumn months during the transition between peak and off-peak travel times. This period generally brings mild to warm weather conditions and fewer tourists, making it, in our opinion, the absolute best time to visit Europe.

Why You Should Travel During Shoulder Season:

  1. Discounted Price Tags: Enjoy more affordable rates on accommodations, ranging from boutique hotels to historic villas. As any traveler knows, flights, transportation, hotel accommodations, meals, and activities can add up quickly. However, this shoulder-season hack can allow for significantly reduced prices in-country. And, as a bonus, you’re more likely to find more adorable flights during this time of year!

  2. Tranquility & Ease: Explore Europe's landmarks and stroll down its cobblestone streets at your own pace and leisure, away from the buzz of peak season. Imagine experiencing attractions that are usually swimming with tourists, like Venice’s St. Mark’s square, without crowds of people in every direction, or walking down La Rambla in Barcelona with plenty of elbow room. This time of year brings the freedom to linger a little longer in favorite spots, photograph the sites without heaps of people, and wait for far less time in lines.

  3. Outdoor Adventures: For most of Europe, mild weather trends warm during shoulder season, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and exploring scenic landscapes. Outdoor enthusiasts, take note!

  4. Do as the Locals Do: Shoulder season in Europe offers a more authentic look at everyday life. Enjoy cultural events and festivals, and experience local traditions without the crowds. Or on quieter days, do as the locals do. Maybe that’s picnicking in the park, posting up at a local cafe, or enjoying some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants.

    Additionally, shoulder season allows you to make deeper connections with the people you meet on your travels. Andrea Grisdale, owner of IC Bellagio, shared that “people are going to have the time in lower season to talk to you, to make a difference to your trip. The guy in the restaurant is going to stop at your table and ask questions – where are you from? How are you doing? What are you doing this afternoon? Go see my friend who has a shop down the street.” If connecting with locals is important to you on your travels, we definitely suggest you consider off or shoulder season travel.

Exploring European Destinations:

  • Paris, France: Wander through the City of Lights amidst its iconic spring blooms or autumn foliage, and explore the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and Notre Dame sans summer crowds. While Paris is a special destination year-round, shoulder season promises a quieter, more intimate experience of the city. Enjoy leisurely walks along the Seine, picnics in charming parks, and see Parisian café culture at its best.

  • Tuscany, Italy: Nowhere does rustic charm quite like Tuscany, and between the food, vineyards, rolling hills, and medieval hilltop towns, it’s no surprise why. Scenic drives throughout the countryside will have you feeling like you’re inside of a postcard as you pass by sunflower fields and rows of cypress trees. Explore Florence, Siena, and Pisa, for a taste of the region’s Renaissance art, architecture, and food & wine scene.

  • Amalfi Coast, Italy: Its rugged coastline, pastel-colored villages, and blue waters can all be enjoyed in full – without the crowds – in shoulder season. Come see what the dolce vita is all about and explore charming hillside villages like Positano, Ravello, and Amalfi. Plentiful in historic churches, artisan shops, and seafood restaurants, there will be more than enough going on to keep you busy. It’s undoubtedly the best time of year to enjoy the Amalfi Coast's natural beauty, near perfect weather, and laid-back ambiance.
  • Barcelona, Spain: Spain is one of the most frequently visited countries in the world, and for good reason. It’s overflowing with architectural sites and boasts a vibrant cultural scene – not to mention its natural beauty is one for the books. We especially love spring time in Barcelona, as the flowers bloom and fill the city's parks and boulevards. Check out Gaudí's works of art, like the Sagrada Família and Park Güell, and make your way to the local markets and tapas bars with ease. Don’t worry about the weather; the Spanish Tourism Board’s website reads, “​​Spain is a sunny country with around 3,000 hours of sunshine every year…The temperatures are mild, but there are still differences depending on the seasons and areas of the country."

  • Venice, Italy: Venice's timeless charm really takes center stage during shoulder season, when the city's canals and historic streets are far less crowded with tourists. Shoulder season in Venice allows you to wind through the canals on gondolas, admiring the views of architectural icons like St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace. Explore hidden alleyways, compare a few different gelatarias, and try Venetian cuisine and Cicchetti (Venetian tapas) at authentic trattorias.

  • Copenhagen, Denmark: Copenhagen's blend of historic landmarks, vibrant neighborhoods, and trendy restaurant scene shines during shoulder season. It’s the perfect time to explore historic sites like Rosenborg Castle and Christiansborg Palace, and discover the city's food scene at local markets and restaurants.

  • Dubrovnik, Croatia: Dubrovnik's ancient walls, cobblestone streets, and panoramic views attract travelers year-round, but shoulder season offers a quieter, more authentic side of the city. Visit its historic landmarks like the Old Town, Rector's Palace, and city walls. Wander through narrow alleys, soak up the sun on pristine beaches, and savor fresh seafood at local tavernas.

  • Santorini, Greece: From peaceful landscapes and crystal-clear waters, to whitewashed buildings clinging to volcanic cliffs and overlooking the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea, Santorini is a dream destination. Explore romantic villages like Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli and get to know the quaint corners of the island. Take in the stunning sunsets, grab an espresso at the local cafe, and wander in and out of the city’s boutique shops.
  • Lisbon, Portugal: The secret’s out about Lisbon. Portugal’s capital city has been climbing the charts as a top destination for the past couple of years. Summers have become quite hectic and busy, but there’s still a very sweet spot during shoulder season where visitors can enjoy charming neighborhoods and scenic viewpoints in a relaxed atmosphere. Springtime in Lisbon means jacaranda trees and generally very comfortable temperatures ideal for exploring the city's charming neighborhoods and historic landmarks, such as the iconic São Jorge Castle and Belém Tower. 
  • Slovenia: Teeming with stunning landscapes, charming towns, and outdoor adventures, Slovenia should be on every traveler’s list. In spring, as the snow melts, the Julian Alps are seemingly illuminated in vibrant greens. There’s picturesque hiking trails and tranquil alpine vistas. Lake Bled is the place for leisurely boat rides to Bled Island, Ljubljana boasts an array of great places to eat locally, and Piran's coastal charm is best enjoyed without the company of too many other travelers.

Tips for Shoulder Season Travel:

  • Book Early: We always suggest securing accommodations and transportation in advance to get the best deals.
  • Pack Wisely: Weather conditions can always vary, so make sure you’re prepared by packing layers and versatile clothing.
  • Stay Flexible: As with any trip, embrace spontaneity. Leave some flexibility in your itinerary to make the most of whatever unexpected opportunities might present themselves.

Whether you're traveling for luxury, tranquility, cultural immersion, or a blend of it all, Europe's shoulder season is a great opportunity to explore its treasures in a more relaxed way.

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